Here's a look at one of the juvenile Red-Headed Woodpeckers I saw. You can see from the back there's a lot of white on its wings. When they're flying, there's also a large white spot on their back, just above their tail. It's quite distinctive and makes them really easy to spot and identify when they're flying.
Here's an even worse picture of the adult woodpecker that the juvenile shown above was hanging around with. I'm guessing this was one of the parents. I know I said it in the previous post, but it was just fantastic to see so many Red-Headed Woodpeckers in one afternoon. I bet I saw at least 20 all over the refuge. The habitat (with its many dead or dying trees) was ideal for these birds. They're on the Audubon WatchList as records show this bird has seen a 50% decline in overall population since 1966.
This was a little road to another viewing platform. It was in a native prairie area and I was trying to give you an idea of how tall the native grasses were growing right along the road. I was in Mr. Johnson's Tahoe and the grass was 4-5 feet tall. I also saw lots of Monarch butterflies all over in the refuge.
There was just one blemish on an otherwise lovely afternoon...... For whatever reason, there are certain roads in the refuge that are open to ATV traffic, and this was one of the groups I encountered. I could go into a huge ATV rant here, but I won't because Mr. Johnson owns one and he reads this blog. Suffice it to say that I do think ATVs have a purpose--on the farm or for work-related hauling and chores, etc. However, there's no way anyone's going to convince me that the folks in this picture above were out on their ATVs to enjoy nature because #1-they were going too fast to see much of anything; #2-you can see how dusty it was--after the third rider, the rest of the riders weren't able to see anything; and #3-any wildlife you might have been able to see would be scared off by the sounds of these ATVs coming up the road. OK, 'nuff said (deep cleansing breath and back to nature)
As I was crossing one of the roads, I happened to notice a large black chunk of something down the road to my right. It kind of looked like a blown-out tire, but as I watched, it started moving. I quickly changed course and headed up the road to investigate. By the time I got there the "black chunk" was in the grass next to the road. Getting out of the truck for a closer look revealed the HUGEST snapping turtle I have ever seen. Isn't this guy a monster? There was a drainage ditch from one of the lakes that ran under this road and this large snapper must have just crawled out of there. I felt really privileged to see such a creature.